The Car Salesmanuscripts: The Car That Got Away

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
the car salesmanuscripts the car that got away
First in a series by car salesman Matthew Guy.

Trying to eke out a living in your early 20s is rarely an easy task. Compounded with fresh debt and a lack of solid work experience, I decided to parlay my knowledge of cars into making money, taking a job selling cars. It was intended to be a gap job –turned out I liked it and, more importantly, I was good at it. Some customers stick out in your mind. The 1000 watt bombshell with fabulous frontage to whom I sold a convertible. A raven haired beauty who was equally as sharp a negotiator as she was a testament to the female form. Too late in the game, I realized that dating customers was an extremely poor idea – especially if Check Engine lights and alternator problems were frequent. One red haired temptress refused to tell anyone how we met, lest people think she paid me to be her boyfriend through the commission. At 23 years old, I didn’t really care.

Not all notable customers were of the unfair sex. This guy, I chased for over a month. He was waffling between another car from me and a Subaru from across town. The industry is small, I knew the Subaru folks outside of work. On this particular customer, we agreed that whoever made the sale would get steak and the loser would get beans. As far as I was concerned, it was over before it began. They would dine on beans, I decided.

The Subaru boys were making it tough, pointing out to the customer that my new car was not significantly different than the 8 year old example he was trading, it was FWD vs their AWD, and so forth. I countered with tales of piston slap and a higher MSRP after rebates. It’s predictable who won; I wouldn’t be telling this story if I didn’t end up eating ribeye. But that steak came at a price that was dear. Once he had signed on the line that is dotted, I took his trade and parked it in the back, next to a clapped out Lumina and a Caravan that was leaking all its fluids.

Within an hour I was paged to my office for a phone call. “Hi. This is [customer]. I want to return my car.” Resisting the urge to groan out loud I mentally dug into every sales lesson I ever attended. I asked him what he most liked about the car. I asked him why he kept his current car for so long. I talked about buyer’s remorse.

It didn’t matter. “I’ll be there in about 20 minutes.” Damn. “OK.” I said, using a tone generally reserved for heart attack patients. So I rushed over to the office and explained what’s going on. Not without reason, the manager’s first question was “Where’s his trade?” “Out back, with the rest of the ones we took in today.” It dawned on me now if we explained that the trade was already sold to a wholesaler, it would muddy the waters enough that he probably would go away. Besides, it’s not like we had a return policy anyway.

Usain Bolt in the 100m did not move as quickly as I did. The body shop manager quickly saw what was up and opened the doors, first to the garage, then to the paint booth some 50ft inside. Comfortably ensconced by DuPont and Sherwin-Williams, the traded car had effectively vanished from the face of the earth.

The customer showed up in a cloud of dust and boiling brake fluid. It’s safe to say he did his best Andretti impersonation on the way to the dealership. We had a sit down. It turned out that Subaru called him on his mobile shortly after he left our lot and talked him into making the call back to us. Fair enough; I probably would have done the same thing. That customer returned thrice in seven years, buying a car each time, Check Engine lights be damned. God only knows how many referrals he sent. And that steak? Knowing that I beat the competition not only in the initial sale but also in their attempt to turn the tables made it taste that much better.

Matthew Guy buys and sell cars, he tweets as Matthew the Car Guy (@matthewkguy) and writes for the British website

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  • Beefmalone Beefmalone on Jun 18, 2012

    Wow, lots of whining and gnashing of teeth in these comments. I wonder how many of you high-horse riders would respond if YOU sold someone a car and then they wanted to bring it back later b/c they'd changed their mind? The buck has to stop somewhere.

  • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Jun 18, 2012

    I once read an article that stated that attorneys and car salesmen rank just below the likes of murderes, rapists and child molesters with the general public.

  • Theflyersfan I pass by the "old money" neighborhoods next to the golf course community where many of the doctors and non-ambulance chaser lawyers live in town and these new Range Rovers are popping up everywhere. It used to the Q8 and SQ8, but I'm thinking those leases expired, traded in, or given to their never leaving home son or daughter so they can smash it at a DUI stop, get on the news, and get out of jail free. I'm not getting into their new design language, and I like Land Rovers. They aren't supposed to look like smooth bars of soap - they need a few character lines or hints of offroad ability, even though the odds of this getting on anything other than a gravel parking lot are less than nil. And with the new Range Rover's rear and the taillights, if I wanted a small solid red bar for a lamp that did everything and then dies and then I can't tell what the car wants to do, I'd follow a late 80's, early 90's Oldsmobile 98.
  • Lou_BC Legalize cannabis for racing
  • Add Lightness Range Rovers have come a long, long ways from their original concept of a gentleman's Land Cruiser. Pretty useless off road now but the wannabees will love them until the warrantee expires.
  • ToolGuy 'Non-Land Rover' gets 2 bonus points for the correct use of carbon fiber in an automotive application. 🙂
  • ToolGuy "a newly developed vehicle platform it says will double driving range"• Anyone know what this is about?